824 Naval Air Squadron personnel have been honing their night flying & submarine hunting skills on HMS Queen Elizabeth, say the Royal Navy.

824 Naval Air Squadron is based at RNAS Culdrose and is equipped with eight Merlin helicopters.

According to a tweet posted by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the carrier and her crew spent the weekend “stretching our sea legs and getting back down to business, day and night flying with 824 NAS concurrent with exercising our emergency response teams”.

HMS Queen Elizabeth recently sailed from her home port of Portsmouth to conduct training with UK F-35 Lightning jets in home waters. Specifically, the ship is sailing to conduct Carrier Qualifications as well as Landing Signal Officer qualifications with 207 Squadron, the UK’s F-35 Lightning training squadron.

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, Captain Angus Essenhigh, said in a news release:

“It is a real honour for me to be taking HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea for the first time as her new Commanding Officer. This period at sea will build on the successes of the Westlant 19 deployment, providing a fantastic opportunity for the ship to further its generation towards carrier strike, and will train and qualify UK F-35 pilots in UK waters for the very first time.”

Lieutenant Commander Richard Turrell, Flight Deck Officer on HMS Queen Elizabeth, added:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to further integrate and qualify United Kingdom F-35 pilots, ground crews and aircraft on board HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters. My team are excited to get to sea and continue the development of our ship to air wing partnership throughout 2020 and beyond to deploying with full carrier strike capability in 2021.”

207 Squadron will be flying aircraft to and from the decks, day and night from their base at RAF Marham. Six pilots, both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, will carry out their aircraft carrier qualification in that time.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Talking about landing things on our carrier decks, leads me to ask if the RN is looking at the American ‘Stingray’ refueling drone? The Ford Class carriers are to be equipped with ‘Stingray’ to enable F35C’s to be refueled by the drone, thus expanding the aircraft’s combat reach. Sounds just what the RN needs when operating globally?


Probably not as that aircraft requires cats and traps for take off and lands something that the QE class don’t have.

This is where I think they could have capitalised on the V-22 for air-to-air refuelling and AWACS, but we’ll see what’s planned for the future.


Maurice, I don’t think the MQ-25 would be able to operate from the Queen Elizabeth class carriers – it is designed for a catapult assisted launch and arrested recovery. Maybe the RN is looking at a buddy-buddy refueling system?


Buddy tanking is the low outlay solution, so I’m sure that’s where they’ll go first (along with droptanks), but with the cost of flying an F-35 being quite high, they might also look at a cheaper platform. Having ruled out the Osprey V-22 VARS, perhaps a Bell V-280 VARS might be a possible solution. The marine version isn’t built yet, but if the USMC goes for V-280 as a carrier attack craft, we could piggy back off that. It should be a lot cheaper than an MV-22 to buy and run, and cheaper to operate than an F-35B.


Don’t drop tanks ruin the stealth characteristics?

Sean Crowley

Depends what they are made of .


Its not just the drop tanks, its the pylons they sit on.

If a F35 is doing buddy to buddy refuelling, not sure its even been looked at by Lockheed Martin. The aircraft’s stealth won’t be a priority as the aircraft will standing off some distance from the hot spot out of harms way.


Stupid question but why can’t we put some fuel tanks in a Chinook and use it for in flight refuelling?

Harry Bulpit

To slow for a B model to refuel from a chinook it would have to do so in the hover. Meaning its more vonrable, more dangerous since the pilot has a number of things to consentrate on, and would use up so much fuel in the prosses it be practically useless.


What if it was done in take off/rolling landing mode with some forward flight, but not as much as normal mode. Depends on how much turbulence there is behind a chinook doing 50 – 100kts forward airspeed.


As Harry says below the main issue is the lack of speed the Chinook could achieve. The Chinook although list for 190mph, in real life can only do about 170knots. The limiting factor are the crew. Above 155knots the aircraft’s vibrations get noticeable above 170 they become uncomfortable. Granted the F35 could use its lift fan to slow right down, but how much fuel will it be using, whilst doing it? The other issue is downdraft. The Chinook is famous for its downdraft, imagine what it would be like towing a 50m refuelling drogue, especially for the aircraft trying to… Read more »


@DaveyB and Harry. Thank you Gents. One final play before I let this bone go….is there any chance a Merlin might pull it off?


The Merlin would still have the same issue of limited top speed.




F-22 droptanks also drop the pylons. I’d assume Lockhead Martin’s 600 gallon tanks will be the same. Israeli firm Elbit has been working on “non-stealthy” 420 gallon tanks for the F-35A/I, and they may work differently.


UK or US gallons?


I read it on The Drive, so 600 US gallons each. Or 500 UK gallons, 2271 L, 4000 lbs, 1.82 tonnes. 60% extra range the pair.

Steve R

Perhaps the answer then is conformal fuel tanks. Would greatly extend the F35Bs range whilst minimising any compromise in stealth profile, and if operating in beast mode frees up two pylons under the wings for additional weapons.


Good point Dan, I had not considered that small detail!

Henry Root

Does refuelling always have to be air-to-air. F-35 has a massive advantage. It can land on a refuelling platform, that could be submersible, or the modern equivalent of pycrete, some sort of expanding foam filling bags in a collapsible structure. Cheap, quick to deploy and easy to destroy. Pop-up islands. Could be hidden underwater for months if necessary.Could be deployed by subs, auxiliary vessels, RFA, civilians etc, no weapons involved, just refuelling sanctuary.


Brilliant suggestions Henry and worthy of consideration. The vertical aspect of the ‘B’ could allow for some platform to be pre-located, or hosted by ships with a big enough landing area? Such ships would need to be reworked to take the weight, and withstand the engine exhaust heat, but that may not be impossible to achieve.

Henry Root

Thank you for consideration. Please build two types. Type 1 is deployable from a RIB by Royal Marines. Type 2 is more permanent and larger. The platform opens like a flower to receive the F-35, but partially closes to protect from the waves, as the submersible buoy will be lower than a QE class ship in the water. Give the F-35 pilot direct control over when to raise the submersible buoy. Gravity is our friend here. The F-35 could also be protected in the same way a QE’s elevator descends. A Royal Marine team should be able to deploy the… Read more »

Henry Root

Exhaust heat – a big problem

Henry Root

I don’t like the idea of ships. Maybe the RIB and RM team is fantasy. But some sort of hidden submersible buoy. When the Germans saw “Mulberry”, they weren’t able to destroy it, or figure its true purpose. I think there is some sort of solution with a submersible and quickly prepared platform, not intended to last more than a few days or weeks. While the pad itself needs to withstand the heat, the rest of the structure could be bags with expanding foam and quickfit meccano. Oh dear I almost mentioned Bailey bridges.

Henry Root

The heat problem is easily solved. Use ocean water held by the “flower” shaped landing pad. Simply boils away. Surface coated with same as QE. Advantage also of this is that if the “flower” is large enough, it can serve as a ski ramp and save fuel.

Henry Root

The point being, we don’t want to lose an F-35 because we couldn’t land it. The Royal Marines need to be able to deploy an emergency landing pad, that is also either quick or stealth-capable. Ships are too easy to blow out of the water and take time to reach the emergency, as was shown last year in the Gulf.


Just a few corrections: 30 of the original buy of 44 Merlin MK1s were converted to MK 2s, therefore no MK 1s are in service. Also, 829 Naval Air Squadron disbanded over 18 months ago. How the Government think that there are enough ASW Merlins (30) to equip 2 Carrier Air Groups, 8 Crowsnest platforms, 3 Type 23 frigate flights plus training and other roles I don’t know? There are also typically 3 or 4 stripped out in Depth maintenance at MDMF at Culdrose. Go figure!

Daniele Mandelli

Spot on.

Though I don’t believe it has been stated anywhere since the 2010 SDSR that the UK will equip 2 Carrier Air Groups. The stated plan was one in use one in reserve. Even when David Cameron then confirmed “both will enter service” there are clearly not enough assets for the two in use simultaneously, unless they put allied or amphibious assets like CHF Merlins, Wildcat, or Chinooks on it.


I bet the US carrier groups miss the days when they had the multi-use S-3B Vikings to provide tanking, Anti sub/surface and long range recon. Dumb decision to get rid of that platform.


They’re still sitting in the boneyard. Some of them with up to 90% of their airframe life remaining…



dont see the advantage of operating an ASW helicopter from a carrier. much better to have it operaing on a 23/26 as part of a screen. They should be 50 nm out monitoring sonobuoys. thats their job. !!!


Think the maintenance facilities and the quality of the crew living environment would be far superior on the carriers….
Would the helicopters be able to operate in rougher sea states than if they were on a frigate?


There’s also number per ship. From a T23 you can operate one Merlin, T26 possibly two, but you have to do some serious juggling to get them turned around, especially when there’s only one landing spot. On a carrier or flat top its not such an issue as there’s more spots you can use, therefore your turn around time will be more frequent.

But totally agree you ASW assets should be out patrolling around the task group, away from the noise.

Rob N

I think the Crowsnest should be based on the T45s that way it forms an air defence unit allowing over-the-horison detection abd targeting. In fact I do not know why they do not develop a tethered blimp to carry an AEW radar above the ship…


Put them on River 2s or T31s positioned as task force picket ships. That might extend the AEW horizon out to 300+ miles.


Last year a US Navy Admiral gave a presentation on threats to amphibious and carrier task groups. He also discussed some scenarios and gave a number of options with dealing with certain threats. One of these discussions was how to deal with simultaneous attacks by large swarms of anti-ship missiles. His proposal was to convert the Ticonderoga cruisers to dedicated AAW ships. This would remove all the Tomahawks and Harpoons to maximise the number of SM3, SM6 and ESSM missiles. Along with the installation of the Baseline 10 Aegis system including the new SPY6 dual frequency AESA radar. But he… Read more »

Rob N

Yes that all makes good sense. The Ticonderoga does not need to be a jack of all trades, the USN has destroyers for that. It should be optimised for AAW.

The T45 should be upgraded with its extra VLS and given extra ASTER30 and perhaps some quad packed Sea Ceptor. A Drone or blimp mounted AEW would be a good idea.

I think there is a case for an arsenal ship. A cheap hull with lots of SAMS that are networked and can be guided by T45/T26/AEW.

Steve R

Could be a variant for Type 31 perhaps? Especially if we get more than 5 of them.


No doubt they will be; refuelling from a River 2 perhaps?


I recall reading somewhere that in the event of hostilities with Russia, the plan is for one of the carriers to form the core of a NATO ASW task group to cover the GIUK gap. This would allow more helicopters to be available than relying just on those operating from the frigates.


Why don’t you email the first sea lord then and tell him of your plans, I’m sure the RN don’t know as much as you. Jesus.5


sorry if my post offended you

Martin S

Sorry to be an anorak but 824 squadron operate Merlin HM2 not HM1.


All the hard work being carried out shows how complex and skillful it is to operate a carrier. The likes of the Chinese still have a lot to do. Just as a thought…. Its just as well that the F35 is working out, because it was a shot to nothing donkeys years ago when Blair and Brown went all on with 2 huge ski jump carriers and no catapults.


Just shows the excellent ability and courage in forward planning by Labour politicians. I hope Boris is half as good! 🙂


If only we had something that could take of and land from our Aircraft Carriers to assist with the refuelling…….could we have used Harriers ??